At an IAPP privacy seminar on Tuesday, David Vladeck, director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said that the FTC has been meeting with browser companies to make sure this security bug is squashed. Chrome and Safari had previously fixed the history sniffing flaw. Mozilla has a fix coming in the next version of Firefox. Microsoft's Internet Explorer is the last major browser in which history sniffing can still occur if you don't change your browser's default settings.Interclick is also being sued by Sonal Bose, a Manhattan woman who had taken steps to block cookies on her computer but despite that found a "flash cookie" from Interclick on her machine, tracking her browser history. (Cookies are small files that web sites leave on your hard drive to indicate that you've been there before.)
The new litigation, the FTC's moves and the settlements all suggest that subverting consumers' attempts to browse the web anonymously is no longer an acceptable business practice. Whether advertisers will be able to resist the temptation to do it, however, is another story. History shows that, generally, advertisers are a terrible guardian of consumers' private information.